Outcry grows over France ‘amber plus’ move

‘The variant is located in La Réunion, which is an Indian Ocean island both very far away from France and England’ – French MEP and medical doctor, Veronique Trillet-Lenoir

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Sunday 18 July 2021 09:21
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Related video: UK imposes 10-day quarantine on all travellers coming from France

After the government’s sudden U-turn for arrivals from France, accusations are growing that the decision to maintain mandatory quarantine was based on a misinterpretation of health data.

On Friday night the government announced that fears about the Beta variant meant France would be excluded from the opening-up of “amber list” destinations to vaccinated travellers, which takes effect at 4am on Monday.

But the French MEP and medical doctor Veronique Trillet-Lenoir told BBC Today that the variant, originally identified in South Africa, was only a concern on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean – an overseas department of France.

“It is not present in France, in mainland France, at all,” she said.

“The variant is located in La Réunion, which is an Indian Ocean island both very far away from France and England.”

The Independent has asked the Department of Health and Social Care for a response to her comments, and for the scientific data behind the volte-face.

As part of the government’s announcement on Friday night, the Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “As we ease restrictions and begin making our way back to a normal life, it’s more vital than ever that we listen to the data and act decisively when it changes.

“While vaccines are helping us turn the tables against this virus, we need to continue to proceed cautiously. That means maintaining our defences against new variants and protecting our hard-won progress through the exceptional vaccination rollout.”

The data analyst Donal Kane called the move “bananas,” and said: “What they could have done would have been to apply the rules for some French overseas territories only.

“Blanket rule for all of France is just stupid and risks French imposing retaliatory rules.”

The move raised fears that other European countries could soon be moved to the new “amber plus” category, triggering the requirement to self-isolate.

The coronavirus data expert Tim White said: “I think anyone travelling to a high-incidence country now has to think 10-day quarantine may well be re-imposed on them at short notice, even if double jabbed.”

Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, a member of the Transport Select Committee, tweeted: “What an utter, utter shambles!

“Recommend anyone who wants to and can: get out now, before Johnson and his useless cronies make it impossible to leave the UK, the country with the highest Covid-19 rates in Europe, courtesy of the Johnson variant.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, responded: “This is how we are all feeling. But useless cronies will still be useless cronies, making the life of those who want and need to travel a misery.”

The move leaves the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers in ruin. Barbara Emmerton and her husband were booked to visit friends in Bergerac in southwest France – with flights, airport car parking and three sets of Covid tests already pre-paid.

She told The Independent: “So absolutely gutted. Unsure if I can get the quarantine time from work now.”

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